ANN ARBOR, Mich. – “Disaster” doesn’t even begin to describe the last three weeks of Michigan football, and now Jim Harbaugh’s team faces one final opportunity to put the ugly losing streak in the past.
Michigan’s feeble effort against Wisconsin was jarring, but not entirely surprising to anyone who watched the last two weeks. The Wolverines lost to a Michigan State team that has looked equally lost every other time on the field and then dropped a game against Indiana for the first time in over 30 years.
But the way Wisconsin bullied Michigan on both sides of the ball was somehow even more disturbing. On offense, the Badgers embarrassed Don Brown’s defense, rushing for 341 yards without hardly breaking a sweat.
Meanwhile, Michigan managed just 219 total yards, 10 first downs and under 20 minutes of possession. To be blunt, the performance was atrocious all the way around.
So where does the team go from here? Counting the inevitable loss to Ohio State next month, the best-case scenario for Michigan is finishing the regular season at an even 4-4.
That’s not what fans had hoped for, but it sure sounds a lot better than 1-7 -- or even 2-6 or 3-5.
As bad as Michigan has been, the schedule is about to get significantly more manageable. Despite what we thought we saw against Minnesota, this team simply isn’t good enough to compete with top 10 teams such as Indiana and Wisconsin.
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But Michigan’s next three opponents are a combined 3-8 on the season, with zero quality wins.
Rutgers has struggled since beating Michigan State in the opener -- a victory that was primarily fueled by MSU’s seven turnovers. The Scarlet Knights lost to Indiana by 16, Ohio State by 22 and most recently, Illinois by three.
Harbaugh has a lot of work to do if his team is to come out of Piscataway with a win. Despite their losing streak, the Rutgers players have a chip on their shoulder, and they’ll be fired up for a home night game. They know they have a chance to beat Michigan, which would have sounded like a pipe dream a year ago.
After Rutgers, Michigan hosts the only winless team in the Big Ten: Penn State. Sure, the Nittany Lions have enough talent to bounce back and win at any time, but so far, this year has been ugly. Penn State even has losses to Maryland and Nebraska.
Speaking of Maryland, as long as the Terrapins get their COVID-19 outbreak under control that will be Michigan’s first matchup of December.
Taulia Tagovailoa looks like a budding star and has Maryland back on track, but wins over Minnesota and Penn State would have sounded a lot better in the preseason -- just ask Michigan. The 40-point loss to Northwestern doesn’t look quite as bad now that the Wildcats are 4-0, but still, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect from Maryland.
The way Michigan has played since the opener, it could very well lose all three of these games and finish the season 1-7. But on the other hand, these next three weeks present an opportunity to bounce back and avoid a season that’s looked back on as one of the most disastrous in program history.
There were times during the loss to Wisconsin when it looked like Michigan simply didn’t want to be there. From a group that lobbied so hard to have a season, that’s even more shocking than the three-game losing streak.
Harbaugh has to get the locker room straightened out and figure out who can get up for next weekend’s game against Rutgers. It’s certainly not an appealing matchup, but adding another loss -- especially that loss -- to this streak would bring on a whole new level of misery.